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December 5, 2013 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Having finished, and loved, The Good House by Ann Leary, I'm interested in other novels where addictions, problems, obsessions or bad habits affect the (unreliable?) narrator as part of their character rather than the main plot theme.

Without wishing to give the plot away, what I most liked was how Hildy's drinking wrote a different story before the 'true' events were revealed, and also the depiction of an addict living day to day, rather than addiction being presented as a linear narrative in a Very Special Episode style, or with the 'addict' finding redemption after treatment. I'm interested in narrators who fuck up but convince themselves they haven't, or who manage to function due to their own weird logic, thinking their behaviour is sane or normal despite evidence to the contrary. Any suggestions welcome!
posted by mippy to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
GAH that second paragraph should have been a (more inside), will self-flag.
posted by mippy at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2013


Atonement, by Ian McEwan. Not addiction -- obsession. I can't say any more. It's breathtaking.
posted by mochapickle at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Also happens to be the most gorgeously written book I've ever read.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2013


Though not about addiction, the "narrators who fuck up but convince themselves they haven't, or who manage to function due to their own weird logic, thinking their behaviour is sane or normal despite evidence to the contrary" part of your request brings to mind no one so much as Ignatius J. Reilly in Toole's Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by juliplease at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2013


Anonymous Disciple is a great book. It is the true story of Fr Jim Collins, alcoholic Catholic priest, who sunk to the lowest depths of addiction and then clawed his way back, and in doing so greatly helped to expand the profile and acceptance of Alcoholics Anonymous. This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding alcoholism. It is a deep and painful story, but it is also a quick and easy read. Really a great book.
posted by Flood at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2013


Heartsick by Chelsea Cain.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2013


Also, Stephen King's The Shining, which is very much about a haunted hotel, but also about Jack's alcohol dependency. Much time is spent exploring how Jack rationalizes his own behavior.

But I have to tell you that the book is terrifying in ways the movie doesn't even start to touch.
posted by juliplease at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (which I LOVED) and it definitely has some aspects of that, along with so much more.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm interested in narrators who fuck up but convince themselves they haven't, or who manage to function due to their own weird logic, thinking their behaviour is sane or normal despite evidence to the contrary.

Pale Fire and Lolita are both EXACTLY this!
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rustication - creepy gothic Victorian novel about a young man of dissolute habits "rusticated" (sent down) from Cambridge to return to his family's very odd and very bleak estate. Grimness! Opium! Mysterious letters! Disemboweled sheep!
posted by selfmedicating at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2013


Wake Up, Sir! puts a weird, really funny spin on this concept.
posted by something something at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Almost anything I've read by T.C. Boyle has a somewhat unreliable narrator, it's like an ongoing theme in his work.
posted by ovvl at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2013


Motherless Brooklyn
posted by Wordwoman at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2013


(sorry, Motherless Brooklyn may not apply as the narrator is very self aware)
posted by Wordwoman at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2013


Infinite Jest! And stories by Victor LaValle have some mental illness in the them that the narrator is sometimes well aware of but...
posted by drowsy at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2013


Pretty much anything written by Kingsley Amis depicts multiple layers of alcoholic thinking, including alcoholic characters who can draw a very sharp bead on each others' alcoholism. The Old Devils is a good example.

Martin Amis's early books are also good for this, especially Money and Dead Babies.

I loved The Good House!
posted by BibiRose at 3:02 PM on December 5, 2013


Going Wrong by Ruth Rendell is written from the point of view of a delusional alcoholic, and it's amazing. A lot of Rendell's characters are in various stages of alcoholism or delusion; some of them are sympathetic and some are not.
posted by BibiRose at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2013


A.L. Kennedy's Paradise does this very well.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 4:44 PM on December 5, 2013


The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and sequels feature a woman who drinks too much but has a spy/detective problem. (And the sequels are as awesome as the first book.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:04 PM on December 5, 2013


Gone Girl
posted by tenaciousd at 8:03 PM on December 5, 2013


You may like Jeannette Walls' Glass Castle.

The father is the denying alcoholic,
posted by BlueHorse at 8:08 PM on December 5, 2013


Every Day is Mother's Day and its sequel, Vacant Possession by Hilary Mantel. Everyone knows her for Wolf Hall, but these earlier novels feature a reclusive mother who is convinced she is psychic and her adult daughter who is developmentally disabled, and capture a creepily Gothic feeling, despite being told from a decidedly upbeat, almost chipper tone. The first novel is told from the mother's perspective and the second, the daughter's, weaving in another, third character who in the first novel has a level head but by the second has unraveled completely. They're delicious reads and put me in mind of Shirley Jackson, whom you should definitely check out as well. She was the master of characters who seem to think they're ordinary, but whose stories always hint something weird's gonna happen.
posted by Otter_Handler at 2:07 AM on December 6, 2013


Thanks for answers so far!I've read Gone Girl, Motherless Brooklyn (years ago, so need to re-read) and, well, I've tried to read Amis fils before and failed.
posted by mippy at 4:13 AM on December 6, 2013


The protagonist of Patricia Highsmith's This Sweet Sickness is so totally immersed in an obsession that his perception and decision-making become seriously erroneous while he remains to a certain extent functional for daily life. It's a 3rd person narration, but fits the desiderata of the character "who fuck[s] up but convince[s] themselves they haven't, or who manage[s] to function due to their own weird logic."
posted by bertran at 5:52 AM on December 6, 2013


The Little Stranger had an unreliable narrator as, of course, did Fight Club. So does Baudolino by Umberto Eco. Oooh, actually, Umberto Eco's most recent book The Prague Cemetery sort of has two narrators talking back and forth about who is the most reliable. (I didn't finish it, so I don't know if it will really make you happy.)

PS. I LOVE unreliable narrators, thank you for posting this question, I'm going to go find The Good House right now.
posted by mibo at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2013


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